The thrills are never quite there in Commando, writes Raja Sen.
Imagine if John Rambo, while readying himself for First Blood's carnage in the woods, had found a woman instead of a red rag to tie around his head. And not just any woman, but one inexplicably disposed towards non-stop conversation: a Manic Punjabi Dream Girl, as it were. Imagine how pissed off Rambo'd be then.
Vidyut Jamwal, the most beefcake-y youngster to make a Bollywood debut in quite some time, takes on the one-note role with dropkicking aplomb.
Playing an imprisoned commando on the run from evil Chinamen, he finds himself some trouble and, naturally, solves it by turning many an able-bodied fellow into a corpse. He's straddled with a highly moronic heroine, one who oscillates shrilly between damsel-in-distress and loudmouthed nutjob, and this excess baggage weighs Commando down quite unforgivably.
It's a very bare-bones plot, clearly meant only as backdrop for Jamwal to display admittedly impressive stunt work and physical dexterity. There's more to the lad than arms like veiny tree-trunks, his skills shown best when JackieChanistically vaulting through a car window.
The fight scenes, however, aren't shot engagingly enough and, given the unending dhishoomery prevalent in films of this type, look equally bland. And he never looks defeated or distressed, which is a shame. A wee bit of kryptonite never hurt a narrative, people.
Thankfully, Jamwal lets his scissorkicks do the talking, which ensures we walk out of this long, exhausting film at least vaguely impressed with his competence.
Nobody else in this tedious film shuts up: from an Army officer who gushes about a commando's abilities while sounding disturbingly aroused, to the nitwit girl played by Pooja Chopra: a girl with extraordinarily awkward body language and a superhuman ability to annoy. And because she can't act to save her life, this, too, must be the poor hero's job.
The film starts loud and keeps getting louder. The background score pinballs between different kinds of crescendos: from operatic to spaghetti to melodramatic.
And then there's a truly unique bad guy, one born (apparently to three witches) on an 'Amavas ki raat' and who has creepily white pupil-less eyes. (Yup, it's that kind of film.)
That said, the excellent Jaideep Ahlawat has a blast as the villain, hamming it up with a mobile phone obsession: he plays Angry Birds a lot and reads SMS forwards to his victims before slaughtering them. Bonus points to him for a Super Mario reference at the film's climax and for, during one particularly cruel act, leavening the tension with a cricketing stance.
Make no mistake, Commando is a poor film. The thrills are never quite there and, all of Janwal's eagerness and leapfrog-skills aside, it must be remembered that a Bowie knife does not Rambo make. Especially when he gives it away to a stupid girl.